Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Brief Russian Interlude

Unfortunately, I had to connect in Moscow in order to get to Kazakhstan from Azerbaijan. I've had to connect in Moscow at Sheremetevo before and it was pretty miserable. A word to the wise, only connect in Moscow for flights if you must and be aware that if you are switching from the domestic terminal to the international terminal or vise versa you will need to schedule plenty of time because they are essentially two separate airports. Sheremetevo, as one of my Russian friends described it, is a "hell-place." It seems like everyone I met in Russia has a horror story involving it. Fortunately for me, however, I connected in Domodedovo, the more modern, privately operated airport.

Leaving Azerbaijan, Getting to Kazakhstan

The time finally came for me to head to Kazakhstan, but there was a slight problem: the OCSE decided to have their conference in Astana, my port of entry into the country, and had not only closed the airport to all non-diplomatic travel but also sealed off the whole city. So, my airline had rescheduled my flight leaving me with 3 days in Moscow; the problem was I didn't have a visa to enter Russia, and I would have to spend all of that time in the airport. So, I had to sort out the involuntary reroute with a Russian airline. Russian business culture isn't exactly customer friendly and after several tense conversations in Russian and English, I canceled my ticket and purchased a ticket with a different airline flying into a different city, Karaganda (thanks a bunch EU presidents and Madame Secretary of State).

When it came time to go to the airport, I hopped in a cab and was off. The cabbie was chatty and very friendly and gave me some advice about life, love, family, and just about everything else; I was able to understand him pretty easily because Russian wasn't his first language either and his speech was simple. I finally made it into the airport and settled in until my plane's gate was announced. I passed the time reading and noticed that there were quite a few birds inside the international terminal, something you just don't see in American airports and probably quite rightly.